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Students voice concern about Denton’s air quality

Students voice concern about Denton’s air quality

Students voice concern about Denton’s air quality
October 25
11:04 2019

UNT students continue to voice concern about their respiratory health due to the increasing number of air quality alerts in Denton.

In the DFW area, 33 alerts have been issued in 2019 so far, compared to 24 in 2018, 23 in 2017, 15 in 2016, 16 in 2015 and 7 in 2014. Consistent with previous years, Denton County received an “F” or “unhealthy” ranking on the Air Quality Index, according to the American Lung Association’s (ALA) 2019 State of the Air report. This means that all citizens “may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and members of sensitive groups may experience more serious effects.”

Several UNT students described symptoms that arose after moving to Denton such as new asthma diagnoses, breathing problems, getting sick more often and worsened or new allergy symptoms. Meadows Center Health Educator Tess Kucera said some of these symptoms could be due to lifestyles on campus.

“Students might be living in close quarters with other people, not getting enough sleep or not eating healthy enough,” Kucera said. “If it’s someone who has never experienced allergies before, if you’re coming from a different state you’re going to be exposed to a different environment.”

More than 46,000 adults are at risk for asthma in Denton County, according to the ALA’s 2019 State of the Air report. High ozone levels may cause shortness of breath, coughing, inflamed airways in the lungs and is also linked to asthma and emphysema.

“If someone does find that they come to Denton and they are experiencing worse asthma symptoms or if they’re diagnosed with asthma for the first time, it could definitely have something to do with the air pollution,” Kucera said.

English sophomore Jacqueline Posadas said she would get sick more than usual while living on campus as a freshman and had never experienced allergies before moving to Denton. Posadas said she had asthma as a child and outgrew it, but it came back once she started college.

“I feel like staying in Denton for school changed my respiratory system,” Posadas said. “When I recently came back to live on campus again as a sophomore, my symptoms immediately worsened.”

Posadas said she was struggling with asthma over the summer, but got it under control when she was prescribed an inhaler.

“Once I came back here I began to wheeze and cough uncontrollably on a daily basis,” Posadas said. “My asthma was so bad that it affected my performance at my job. I even woke up in the middle of the night, unable to breathe.”

Based on her experience in her hometown of Fort Worth, Posadas said she believes the constant construction in the DFW area could contribute to Denton’s poor air quality.

Like Posadas, music education sophomore Lia Sullivan said she only started experiencing symptoms after moving to Denton from Corpus Christi.

“Nearly everyday I wake up in the morning with intense chest pain as I breathe in,” Sullivan said. “If the pain doesn’t subside by midday, I’m coughing and struggling while I’m singing in my ensembles.”

Sullivan said she was led to believe air quality could be the culprit after noticing she noticed her symptoms flared up around the days when her phone alerted her on poor air quality days. She went to a doctor who sent her away with a prescription for Allegra and cough medicine.

“[The doctor] said that it was probably my allergies flaring up from the change in the environment, but mostly disregarded it,” Sullivan said. “I was already on an allergy medication and it wasn’t helping the chest pains and coughing.”

In order to protect one’s health and to reduce pollution, the ALA recommends checking air pollution forecasts daily, avoiding exercise outdoors or near high traffic areas, using less energy at home and walking or biking instead of driving.

Featured Illustration: Miranda Thomas

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Michelle Nguyen

Michelle Nguyen

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